Less than two months before national elections, the rise in the cost of importing oil and gas in 2005 has led to a 10 billion euro Italian trade deficit.
According to ISTAT, the Italian statistics office, it is the rise in oil and gas prices that is the reason behind the 850% increase in the country’s trade deficit compared with 2004. The last time Italy had a deficit of this magnitude was back in the 1980s.
The deficit has jumped from 1.22 billion euros in 2004 to 10.37 billion euros in 2005. The figures add to the general sense of gloom over the Italian economy, which has seen close to zero growth in the past five years.
Recent opinion polls put the centre-left opposition, led by former European Commission President Romano Prodi, some five percentage points ahead of the Berlusconi government. But the lead appears to be narrowing.
Italy goes to the polls on 9 April.